As we close out 2022, I felt it necessary, as your self-proclaimed eater-in-chief, to round up all of my favorite dishes and drinks from the past year. So throw those New Year’s resolutions out the window and enjoy 2023 from the start by experiencing Baltimore’s best bites.
Azumi — Flaming King Crab Roll
I obviously love a good Instagram-worthy moment, and there’s nothing better than capturing a flaming sushi roll arriving at your table. Bonus: It tastes even better when enjoyed outdoors on Azumi’s waterfront patio.
BLK Swan — Fried Oreo beignets
If you read my list about my favorite Maryland State Fair bites, you already know about my love of fried Oreos. So imagine my excitement when I learned they’re available year-round at BLK Swan, but made even better since they’re fried inside beignets.
Blue Moon Cafe — Sweet Baby Jesus
Aptly named for the exclamation you’ll make after taking the first bite, Blue Moon’s Sweet Baby Jesus is not for the faint of heart (in fact, you may want to call your cardiologist before devouring it). And if it happens to be your last meal, you won’t regret enjoying the deliciousness of flavors flowing from the crisp hashbrowns, jumbo lump crab meat, Old Bay, eggs, melted cheese and hollandaise.
Clavel — Queso with chorizo
The cheese pull alone makes the queso with chorizo from Clavel worth ordering, but you may want to wait a few seconds to let the bubbling cheese cool down before diving in! Pro tip: It pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s wide selection of mezcal cocktails.
Crazy Puddings — Banana pudding
It should come as no surprise that the banana pudding from Crazy Puddings is making an appearance on this list. The difficulty is picking my favorite flavor. So, I won’t. I encourage you to try every flavor and come to your own conclusion.
Duck Duck Goose — Croque Madame
Napkins are absolutely required when ordering the croque madame from Duck Duck Goose. While I don’t typically condone eating a sandwich with a fork and knife, it may help deter you from licking the truffle mornay sauce off the plate.
Dulceology Bakery — Passion Fruit Cronut
Cronuts make me go nuts, especially when they’re filled with passion fruit cream and sprinkled with gold flakes. Make a beeline to Dulceology for a delicious dozen of these croissant-donut hybrids.
Ekiben — The Neighborhood Bird
This list wouldn’t be complete without Ekiben’s iconic Neighborhood Bird. In fact, my mouth starts watering the minute I think about the Taiwanese curry fried chicken that’s smothered in spicy sambal mayo and smooshed between the most perfect steamed bun.
The Food Market — French Onion Rings
The French Onion Rings at The Food Market combine the sophistication of French onion soup with the guilty satisfaction of fast food cuisine. The only problem is there is no drive-thru.
Four Seasons — Lava Flow
This one certainly makes me miss summer, but when the pool deck opens again in 2023, I’ll be the first at the bar ordering this fabulous frozen fusion combining the flavors of a piña colada, strawberry daiquiri and mango.
Heritage Smokehouse — Smoked meats
Meat sweats aside, if you’re a serious carnivore, you’ll want to go all-in on a smoked meat platter with brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs, chicken, kielbasa, and käsekrainer, aka the ”Ron Swanson.” And if you still have room, be sure to check out the dessert menu.
Ice Queen’s Dreamsicle Snowball, and Bmore Licks’ Dreamsicle Dole Whip
It was the year of the Dreamsicle for me. If I saw the sweet treat mixing the flavors orange and vanilla on a menu, it went into my mouth. And these two were no exception.
Koco’s Pub — Crab cake
I’ve eaten a lot of crab cakes this year, but few come close in taste and size to the Baltimore icon that is Koco Pub’s 11-ounce crab cake. The ratio of lump crab to filling and seasoning creates a beautiful balance that the Chesapeake Bay gods have surely blessed.
La Scala — Lobster Regina
What could make a pile of pasta smothered in tomato cream sauce taste even better?! You guessed it! Twin lobster tails and jumbo lump crab. And that is exactly my order every time I visit La Scala (add: espresso martini).
Lib’s Grill — Sinking Crab Cakes
A combination of two classics — crab cakes and cream of crab soup — create a crab lover’s dream. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with crab dishes when you can just pair these staples.
The Local — Bananas Foster
One of my absolute favorite desserts is bananas foster. When I see it, I like it, I want it, I get it. And dinner at The Local was no exception. (This is my plea for more restaurants to add it to their menus.)
Loch Bar — Crab Grilled Cheese
Combining seafood with cheese is often a frowned upon practice in the foodie world, but all rules are out the window when it comes to the crab grilled cheese at Loch Bar, which combines gruyère, gouda, bacon, tomato and jumbo lump crab imperial. Add a lemon stick crush into the mix and you’ve got a true Baltimore meal.
Marta Fine Food and Spirits — Campanelle
With all of the new restaurants opening around town, it made sense that at least one of my favorite bites would be from a newcomer. In fact, the campanelle — a saffron pasta with poached lobster, leeks and uni zabiglione — was so delicious, I went back to Marta twice in one week.
Mexican on the Run — Birria tacos
They were the first to bring savory birria to Baltimore and, in my humble opinion, they are the absolute best. When you see their truck around, run to place your order.
Monarque — Lobster with Winter Truffle Brown Butter
For your daily dose of decadence, I recommend ordering the three-pound lobster with winter truffle brown butter and freshly shaved truffle. Yes, the claws are the size of my hand. And yes, I finished it all.
SugarBakers Cakes — Smith Island Cake
Discovered on my journey to find the best bites around I-695, this Smith Island Cake was so good, I went to Catonsville Gourmet twice in one day to get it. While SugarBakers Cakes provide desserts to several local restaurants, they also have a storefront of their own where you can select from a variety of baked goods.
Thames Street Oyster House — Lobster roll
If this list becomes an annual thing, I can pretty much guarantee this lobster roll will be on it every year. Every bite is absolute melt-in-your-mouth perfection. If you haven’t indulged, make it number one on your goals for 2023.
Chris Franzoni is a Baltimore native, resident, food fanatic, and “Eater-in-Chief” of @EatMoreBeMore, which he started seven years ago with two goals – eating his way through the city and shining a positive light on the Baltimore-area restaurant and hospitality scene.